What is your personal viewpoint on current prevention efforts against Influenza Epidemic and Pandemic?
I think this is a case in which public education has paid really noticeable dividends. The general public is much more aware of the dangers of flu and the simple ways to prevent it or limit its spread. It seems sometimes as if I spend my life at Wal-Mart, and last year I noticed that every single shopper stopped to take a disinfectant wipe in the store's entrance and use it to wipe down the shopping cart handle. Awareness. Good habits.
People wash their hands more often, too, and if they should forget, there's a sign in every public restroom to remind them. At school, I've noticed students now routinely cover their mouths when they cough or sneeze. It has become socially unacceptable not to! Peer pressure can be a good thing, it seems.
The ready availability of flu vaccine is another good step. Now you can run to the store to pick up some bread and milk and get your flu shot at the same time. The mini-clinics make it convenient for people to follow up on their good intentions, no doubt preventing lots of illnesses and even some deaths from influenza.
Common sense can always win over sensationalized fear. If people are healthy, anyway, they have built some immunities which will protect them from becoming deathly ill. Flu shots are good for the elderly, of course, but some people get carried away with taking antibiotics and getting shots. Some years ago people were innoculated against a strain of flu that never really spread.
This discussion brings to mind a current debate among young parents "To Vaccinate or Not to Vaccinate?" Considering the hype brought about by celebrities like Jenny McCarthy, I think when healthcare advice begins to be driven by the media (or big names in Hollywood) we know we have a serious problem.
Though this doesn't seem to be happening with the flu (or flu shots, specifically) the threat of incorrect information in the hands of the media is certainly always alive. It just points to the necessity of being well-informed and pro-active about personal health.
Crying "pandemic" during flu season is akin to shouting "Fire!" in a crowded theater--it just shouldn't be done. Time will decide if an epidemic rises to the level of pandemic, just as time will tell if this economic downturn rises to the level of a second Great Depression. Scaring people into doing what they would normally not do is not the job of the media--though it does seem as if it is, at times.
There are simple steps that we can all take to protect ourselves, but as epollock has indicated we cannot protect ourselves from those who refuse to use healthy habits. Washing our hands and all the other steps we take are sometimes negated by the unhealthy habits of others--like not covering their mouths when they cough.
We have to keep in mind that the media is in the business of making money. It is likely to use words like pandemic to increase viewers or readers of their particular media. In our school district we filter everything through nursing staff and they do an excellent job of keeping staff and students aware of preventing the outbreak of flu.
I live in a rural region where we have many elderly and low-income residents. There is always an extensive awareness campaign for flu shots and how to prevent the spread of infection and disease, not only in the local newspapers, but on television and posted in public areas.
I believe that most people use common sense and to see the media stories warning against a pandemic is somewhat like the boy who cried wolf. It seems to me that every time the flu viruses mutate, which is apparently a normal occurrence due to to evolution as vaccines are implemented worldwide, the media "goes crazy."
I think we need to be very very careful about using the word "pandemic" as it creates panic and terror in so many ways. This does raise a dilemma, of course, for governments, about what kind of language they can use safely that will not be inflammatory. On the whole I do agree with #3 - the government handled the recent H1N1 scare well as there were a minimum of deaths, but perhaps it needs to explore with the mass media how the two can work together to not create panic and to ensure that such situations are handled well.
When it came to the H1N1 scare, I think it was handled pretty well from a government perspective, dealing with a possible pandemic, but the public information side of it was sorely lacking, and counterproductive.
The media screamed "pandemic!" hundreds of times per day and generally scared the public much more than was necessary. While caution and information are critical during an outbreak, abject terror makes things worse.
So the criticism of the government's response, I feel, was largely unfounded. The deaths were kept to a bare minimum, and no devastating world pandemic developed. It was good practice, too, in case we ever do come up against a deadly virus that does spread. But the media gets an F.
Flu awareness and prevention efforts have skyrocketed since last years H1N1 scare. Since then I have personally noticed an increase in awareness. People are generally taking preventative precautions such as frequent and proper hand washing and getting vaccinated, especially those people who are at risk.
Many people also became very nervous when H1N1 vaccines were only available to those people who needed the vaccine the most. Because of this, vaccines were mass produced and many ended up getting thrown away. Flu vaccines are now available for everyone and are available at most drug stores for a nominal fee. I think that it is great that these vaccines are available to everyone that desires to get one.
Current approaches of innoculation and preventative hygiene are efficient methods to combat the spread of the illness. Most people don't realize the importance of simple hand washing and covering their mouths and noses when they cough or sneeze; these are important battles that can be won.